Weeks after engaging in a verbal tirade, President Peter Mutharika and leader of Opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera shook hands and cheerfully smiled into each other’s eyes at a national event in Lilongwe yesterday.
Ironically, the occasion at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) was the commemoration of International Day of Peace where Malawi officially launched its National Peace Policy.
Patrons at the event, who included Vice-President Saulos Chilima, erupted with joy upon the two leaders’ gesture. Some clapped hands while others cheered and ululated.
They definitely captured the mood well. Here were the country’s two political rivals who recently exchanged some unsavoury words about each other on political platforms. Yet yesterday they rose to the occasion and demonstrated a spirit of peace and unity.
Some of the two leaders’ hand clappers, who seem to specialise in causing bad blood and hatred through gossip, were taken aback and seen sheepishly clapping hands and cheering as the leaders cheerfully laughed.
Chakwera, who is also president of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), came up close to the President when he was in a line of 16 officials representing societal sectors that had the privilege to receive the National Peace Policy document from Mutharika.
Two weeks ago, Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya ruled that the leader of opposition in Parliament’s remarks that “the President is incompetent and insensitive” be struck off the Hansard—the official record of proceedings in the National Assembly.
Barely a day after the Speaker’s ruling, the President, on his return road-trip from Mzuzu to Lilongwe, at a rally at Kasungu town, made a subtle attack on Chakwera, suggesting the MCP president was mentally unstable and should undergo psychiatric evaluation.
He said the fact that Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya ruled that Chakwera’s remarks should be withdrawn it meant Parliament noticed something wrong.
Commenting on the President’s significant moves in line with international and local peace celebrations, State House director of communications Dr. Bright Molande said in his speech and in his actions, Mutharika had scored highly yesterday.
On the Bicc meeting between the President and Chakwera, he pointed out that the spontaneous joy the people showed when the two shook hands and smiled at each other told a significant story.
Earlier on at Bicc, the United Nations commended Malawi for being exemplary in upholding peace over the years and government and other stakeholders have been urged to maintain the spirit of dialogue when misunderstandings erupt.
Delivering the message, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) acting resident representative to Malawi, Clare Medina, said the launch of the policy is one of the positive strides the country has made in its efforts to promote peace.
Presiding over the event and launching the policy, the President stated that the policy reminded Malawians that peace is a precious gift which does not come accidentally but requires efforts of the peace seekers to attain it.
According to the implementation plan of the policy, there will be a Malawi Peace Commission (MPC) whose secretariat will be in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to oversee its implementation.